Shaun McKay formally ended his decadelong tenure as Suffolk County Community College president Friday after the board of trustees unanimously approved a settlement for an undisclosed amount terminating his contract 15 months early.
The board voted 7-0 without discussion for the settlement after an executive session during a special meeting at SCCC's Selden campus. Three trustees did not attend.
“Dr. McKay and the board have … a mutual agreement for a voluntary separation from his position effective today,” Theresa Sanders, board chairwoman said after the meeting. Sanders called the agreement “amicable.”
McKay's attorney, Saul Zabell, said McKay "has submitted his resignation and he's happy the college's investigation has revealed no wrongdoing on his part."
The resolution said the college board “entered into discussions with the college president to resolve claims” he made over his contract. Both sides sought to "avoid the burden of uncertainty, delay, expense and distraction of litigation …," the measure said.
SCCC officials said details of the settlement could not be made public immediately because of federal age discrimination rules, but the information would become available after seven days under the Freedom of Information Law.
College officials declined to say how the settlement will be funded until the waiting period is over. SCCC has about $16 million in its reserve fund.
Trustees on Jan. 8 had directed McKay to take a paid leave of absence from his post, which paid $308,710 in salary and benefits, after deciding not to renew his contract after its scheduled end on Aug. 15, 2020.
A three-member board committee investigated undisclosed allegations. The inquiry came after McKay had spent 77 days on medical leave in 2018, and sought a 10-year contract extension when he returned to campus.
SCCC could have terminated McKay’s contract for cause. But Christopher Murray, head of the board committee, neither “made any finding” on firing McKay nor forwarded findings of their inquiry to him for a formal response. Murray called a negotiated agreement “better for the college.”
SCCC executive vice president and counsel Louis Petrizzo has been serving as acting president and will continue in the position temporarily. Petrizzo, 73, of Copiague, a former Suffolk County legislator and Babylon Town attorney, said he is not a candidate to succeed McKay.
Sanders said the college will hire an outside firm to help in the search for a new president.
Sanders, who said it could take six months to a year to find a successor for McKay, said, “Long Island is such a prime area … I’m sure we'll get a lot of quality candidates to apply because of who we are.”
Potential successors whose names have circulated include former Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop of Southampton, a lobbyist and head of the Center for Community Solutions at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, and State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), former chairman of the Senate Higher Education Committee.
Sanders declined to comment on possible candidates, but said, “if they apply, every candidate should be able to rise to the top if they meet the qualifications.”
Correction: Due to an editing error, attorney Saul Zabell's client was misidentified in an earlier version of this story. Zabell represented former Suffolk County Community College President Shaun McKay.